The Saudi tourism delegation returned to WTM with more than 75 Saudi partners including key DMOs, DMCs, hotels, tour operators, airlines, cruise companies and more – a 48% increase on last year and its largest-ever delegation – to share the latest developments and create new business opportunities for the Saudi tourism ecosystem.
This year, Saudi announced an all-new and first-of-its-kind two-year partnership with RX Global - following a formal signing at the closure of WTM London - which will see STA become the first-ever ‘Global Travel Partner’ of the WTM tradeshow events. The collaboration is scheduled to include new promotional activities to inspire visits to Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Pavilion, the biggest presence at the event, was opened by His Excellency Ahmed Al Khateeb, Minister of Tourism, Saudi Arabia, alongside Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO and Member of the Board, Saudi Tourism Authority on the first day.
Across the three-day event, thousands of attendees were welcomed to the Saudi pavilion to explore the diversity of Saudi’s growing destination.
Coinciding with WTM London was the 22nd annual Wanderlust Travel Awards. Saudi was awarded ‘Most Desirable Emerging Destination’ – as voted for by almost 90,000 readers – at the 22nd annual Wanderlust Reader Travel Awards held at the Natural History Museum on 7 November.
Facilitating new business opportunities to create shared value and unlock opportunities across the tourism value chain was front and center of Saudi’s WTM plans, with a dedicated investment hub run by the Ministry of Tourism and the Tourism Development Fund hosting meetings to inform potential partners about the benefits of investing in the Kingdom.
The on-stand Smart Tourism hub offered in-depth information for trade from open-source marketing material to a business directory, analytics and insights, and the opportunity to seamlessly register as trade partners using a QR code.
Throughout the event, Saudi signed 18 MoUs in total with world-leading organizations to help Saudi elevate its tourism offering and provide trade partners with unmatched opportunities, including with Tripadvisor, Mastercard, Dida Travel and Destinia.
Global tourism partners continue to unlock endless opportunities and potential in Saudi, with more than 2,580 bilateral trade meetings taking place on the Saudi stand this year.
It was a must-visit stand for WTM attendees who were welcomed by true Saudi hospitality and the warmth of Saudi people.
Saudi coffee was flowing as guests enjoyed Saudi cuisine and danced to the beat of Saudi drums. The immersive stand exhibited traditional Saudi crafts that have been passed through generations:
‘Flower Lady’ from Abha wove crowns with flowers brought from the Asir region
Bisht maker live-stitched the traditional men’s cloaks
Basker-weaver plaited palm leaves with guests
Arabic calligrapher created bespoke artwork with guests’ names
The Red Sea built a 360-degree immersive seascape where guests could explore an interactive map of the project. The project’s first hotel, the Six Senses Southern Dunes, officially opened to the public on October 30 and the Red Sea International Airport is open for domestic flights.
And AlUla, the living museum of preserved tombs, unique rock formations, and historic dwellings holding over 200,000 years of largely unexplored history, was at the event promoting the destination’s world-leading sustainable development and its packed events calendar including the upcoming Ancient Kingdoms Festival from November 16 to December 2.
Speaking at the event, Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO and Member of the Board at Saudi Tourism Authority, said:
“Saudi tourism has grown exponentially since we opened our doors to international visitors just over four years ago – providing an opportunity like no other for partners and travelers across the globe.
“The first year Saudi attended WTM we brought just 20 partners along and now we’re back in London with more than 75 partners and the biggest-ever stand at WTM.
“Tourism is more than just a significant economic powerhouse – it is a cornerstone of cultural exchange and mutual understanding.
“The core belief that drives our great leadership in Saudi is our open minds and open hearts – I beckon you to come and feel the warmth of our welcome.”
Saudi has made huge efforts to make travel more seamless. Through the Air Connectivity Program, Riyadh is being transformed into a world-class transport hub connecting East and West. The Riyadh Air stand was a testament to this, showcasing life-size models of the carrier’s new luxurious business class cabins and better-than-ever economy class with extra-wide seats that are set to launch in 2025.
Saudi is creating increased travel options and competitiveness to reach its ambitious tourism targets, with the eVisa program first launched in 2019 now including 63 countries and special administrative regions, compared to the initial 49 countries in its launch.
Saudi’s presence could not only be felt at the London Excel, where WTM London was held, but right across the capital where Visit Saudi London taxis and creative Visit Saudi billboards and digital signs could be spotted.
Customers that hailed down one of the special Visit Saudi branded taxis were offered free taxi rides around the capital within a 12km radius during WTM London – and enjoyed a fragrant Saudi experience with sprays in the taxis such as lavender from Dammam, rose from Taif and clementine from AlUla.
Saudi has just entered its Winter Season, with 11,000 events set to take place including world-class sporting fixtures and a packed cultural calendar boasting MDL Beast, the Red Sea Film Festival, Riyadh Season 2023 with more than 10 thrilling zones around the city, and AlUla’s flagship festival, Winter at Tantora, from December 21 to January 27, with experiences and activities that showcase the very best of AlUla. And in the New Year, Saudi will welcome the return of its hotly anticipated Dakar Rally – the world’s most treacherous motor rally.
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